Superintendent of Education John White. (Donna Price / American Press)
Last Modified: Saturday, December 08, 2012 5:39 PM
Usually, the best leaders choose silence over provocative speech.
John White, state superintendent of Louisiana’s schools, would have done better to say nothing at all rather than accuse the state’s two teacher unions of getting “in the way of student achievement.” That was insulting to the teachers that those unions represent.
The unions chose to fight in court the Louisiana’s voucher program, which is paying with state dollars to send students in mediocre or failing public schools to private or parochial schools — and hopefully to better results. It is the unions’ perfect right to take their case to court.
Moreover, the teachers won at the local level when a state district judge ruled recently that it is unconstitutional to send the state’s public funds to private schools to fund the vouchers. The state will appeal. But the teachers’ victory at the local level suggests that their position is at least plausible, if it does not prove to be ultimately correct.
The voucher program deserves an opportunity to succeed. At the very least, students in failing schools deserve the opportunity to gain a good education where they can find one. If that means they go to the private or parochial school of their parents’ choice, good for those lucky families.
After all, of the state’s more than 1,300 public schools, more than 900 are rated as C,D or F. Small wonder that parents of almost 5,000 students, given their druthers, have opted for different paths to educate their children. Everyone should want what is best for their children.
But the voucher program this school year was put into motion in great haste. There were initial problems in approving school sites, which put the voucher program in a bad light around the state. The superintendent himself may have misspoken when he said safeguards were always in place about the schools approved for the program; that undercut his credibility with some legislators and the public. That does not mean that vouchers are wrong — they promise better opportunities for students — but the voucher program must pass constitutional muster.
All that said, the issue now belongs before the state’s judiciary, the one branch of government that Gov. Bobby Jindal does not control. One judge has ruled. The governor’s response to losing at the first level of courts — he called the judge’s decision a “travesty” — was disappointing. This is no time for White to insult his adversaries in court or for the governor to deride the judge’s interpretation of the law.
It is time for Jindal and White to back off from political grandstanding and to let Louisiana’s freely elected judges coolly and dispassionately decide this matter.
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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.
Posted By: Dwight On: 12/10/2012
Title: Most schools will be average
"of the state’s more than 1,300 public schools, more than 900 are rated as C,D or F. " While not the best, a C grade is acceptable. The statistic that should be stated is how many are D and F rated. And even then we should look elsewhere for the problem. After all the the teachers unions represent teachers in A and B rated schools as well as the D and F schools.
The voucher system is just a political power grab to take education away from the local school boards.